Urban Meyer Sticking with Gators, Donovan Against Upstart Florida Gulf Coast
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the switch to semesters, Ohio State’s football coach is pretty busy this time of year. That hasn’t prevented Urban Meyer from catching some of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Knowing Meyer, he’s probably been tuning in to watch the 2-seeded Buckeyes this March, if for no other reason than to get another look at gritty point guard Aaron Craft.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I love that kid,” Meyer said after practice last week.
The NCAA doesn’t allow coaches to fill out tournament brackets, at least not for money, but Meyer will certainly have a vested interest in Friday night’s matchup between 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast and 3-seed Florida.
The final game in the round of 16 will take place in Arlington, Tex. on Friday, and Meyer’s daughter Gigi, a sophomore volleyball player at FGCU, will likely be in attendance.
That doesn’t mean her dad will be pulling for the Eagles to keep their Cinderella season alive against the regular season SEC champions.
“Always a Gator, but,” he said with a pause.
“Always a Gator.”
Meyer reportedly texted his daughter after Florida Gulf Coast pulled the upset against 2-seed Georgetown in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to let her know he was pulling for the Eagles.
“I'm an Eagle! Go Eagles,” Meyer reportedly said in a text message, but that was before they found themselves matched up with his friend and former colleague, Billy Donovan.
Before taking the job at Ohio State last in November of 2011, Meyer spent six seasons as the head football coach down in Gainesville. He won three regular season SEC championships and a pair of BCS national titles at Florida, where he also developed a close relationship with Donovan.
In fact, the two even lived in the same gated community, separated only by a vacant lot between their estate homes, while Meyer was coaching the Gators. They became more than just colleagues, sharing personal conversations about the struggles of maintaining success at the level they had both achieved during their time together at Florida.
After a year away from coaching, Meyer’s heart brought him back to Ohio, where he replaced Jim Tressel as the head football coach in Columbus. Ohio State is where he got his start, and in many ways, it’s the school he always dreamt of coaching.
That doesn’t mean he’s turned his back on the six incredible years he spent coaching in the SEC. His Gators were as fun to watch as any team in the country from 2005-10, so Meyer can certainly appreciate what he is witnessing from the basketball program at his daughter’s university.
“It’s incredible for that school,” Meyer said after practice Tuesday.
“We’ve been there, it seems like, since the beginning. They weren’t even (Division I) when we first got there, I don’t think.”
Florida Gulf Coast didn’t even exit as a university when Meyer’s daughter Gigi was born in 1994. It would be three more years before the school held its first classes in August of 1997, but now they are two wins away from playing in the Final Four.
“They’re good,” Urban Meyer added.
“I watched them the other day. That’s not smoke and mirrors. They got really good players. That’s going to be a good game.”
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